AR Briefly

Little Rock housing complex facing AG lawsuit might file to evict some tenants

By: - November 14, 2022 3:20 pm

Seven units at a Little Rock apartment complex still have unresolved safety issues after three months because management hasn’t been able to gain access to those apartments, the attorney representing the complex said Monday in city environmental court.

Big Country Chateau will return to court Nov. 28, its fifth scheduled appearance, to address multiple city code violations, including mold, broken windows, exposed electrical wiring and scattered garbage.

Management might have to file civil eviction actions against the residents of the remaining seven units as a last resort to gain access and improve the living conditions, said Sylvester Smith, the 151-unit complex’s attorney.

“We’re trying to be considerate of everything these folks have gone through, but at the same time, we have a responsibility to the court to get those units resolved,” he said.

Smith said in an interview that he would prefer not to file to evict anyone.

“Hopefully, these folks will work with us, but if not, we’re going to have to file because we’ve got to show progress,” he said.

This is the fourth postponement after Big Country Chateau’s previously scheduled hearings on Aug. 29, Sept. 21 and Oct. 3.

Smith said on Oct. 3 that management had not been able to access 10 units. Big Country Chateau management pleaded no contest to the city code violations at that hearing.

The complex on Colonel Glenn Road and its parent company, New Jersey-based Apex Equity Group, also are facing a consumer protection lawsuit alleging deception and mistreatment of tenants filed in August by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

The Pulaski County Circuit Court complaint alleges that Big Country Chateau rented out units despite knowing those units violated city code.

Additionally, Big Country Chateau tenants almost lost access to water and electricity Sept. 1 because complex managers did not pay the utility bills despite promising tenants they would do so, according to Rutledge’s lawsuit.

Accepting consumers’ money for a previously agreed-upon purpose and not using the money for that purpose is “a deceptive, false, and unconscionable business practice” that violates the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, the lawsuit states.

Big Country Chateau management paid off its $70,000 debt to Entergy Arkansas and made “arrangements” with Central Arkansas Water before Sept. 1, so both utilities still provide services to the complex.

Tenants have said that management often has not responded to maintenance requests and “scrambled” to do so after the nonpayment of utility bills became public knowledge in July.

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Tess Vrbin, Arkansas Advocate
Tess Vrbin, Arkansas Advocate

Tess Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants' rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri. A Midwesterner by birth, she graduated from the University of Missouri's journalism school in 2019.